(Hanukah Lamp, Manfred Anson, 1986)
Jews are comfortable in America, maybe too comfortable. With a large percentage of Jews intermarrying and a low Jewish birthrate, there’s been a drop from 4 percent to 2 percent of the general American population in the last fifty years.
Is there a way to stop this demographic decline?
New York Times columnist William Safire has the answer. In a speech in Jerusalem, he said American Jews should do to Catholics, Protestants, Mormons, and Muslims what they’ve been trying to do to us Jews for thousands of years — convert them.
It’s not a bad idea. I always thought Jews were too wimpy in promoting their own religion. So, as a service to my fellow Jews, let me do my small part by trying to convert you, my non-Jewish reader:
Being Jewish is cool. I’ve enjoyed it my entire life. I went to Hebrew School. I got bar mitzvahed. I had a great Jewish wedding ceremony, complete with klezmer band. I like temple… sometimes. I don’t even miss not celebrating Christmas. There’s no law that says I can’t sing "The Little Drummer Boy" with my non-Jewish friends or even with Jewish friends. The secret is out — Jews love those great Christmas songs. That’s why Barbra Streisand and Neil Diamond made those awful Christmas albums. You Christians win hands down with Christmas over Hanukkah, but sorry, guys — Passover is better than Easter.
Jews love food, and there is always a lot of food at a Jewish event. Jewish woman are smart and funny. Jews like education. Jews don’t talk all the time about scary things like "original sin" and "Satan." Jews have made it through a lot of bad times. Temples aren’t usually as nifty-looking as cathedrals and churches, but rabbis are usually friendly guys and gals. While there are many conservative Jews, most Jews don’t spend every moment of the day worrying about abortion and the evils of stem cell research. One bad thing is that Jews argue a bit too much among themselves. I even remember two Jewish talent agents fighting over the same seat in a Beverly Hills synagogue — on Yom Kippur of all times.
"I’m with CAA!" he yelled at the top of his lungs.
The Ten Commandments — ours. If you love reading, Judaism is for you. There’s the Torah, the Talmud, the Mishnah —
Think about it, my Christian friends, do you really believe that Jesus was the son of God? I mean, I respect your religion and all, but c’mon. Let’s be rational.
The only problem with this conversion attempt is that if I’m being rational, which I am, much of this Jewish stuff is as far-fetched as your religion. In fact, it’s as far-fetched as every other religion on this planet.
How am I going to convince you to be kosher if I’m not kosher? How can I sell being Jewish if I’m not sure what it means myself? Does William Safire really think that American Jews, a mostly secular bunch, are going to be effective spokespeople in converting others?
The most successful branch of Judaism in converting others is the Orthodox. After all, they are the most "religious" and confident in their beliefs. I sincerely doubt that Mr. Safire was addressing Orthodox Jews when he suggested Jews should proselytize. I think he was probably thinking of someone more like himself, a sophisticated, newly minted Jewish man or woman who could sit with him all morning in a cafe and talk about the latest Op-Ed page. The Orthodox man is probably too busy working and praying, while the Orthodox woman is too busy taking care of her six children.
I tried my best. Next Year in Jerusalem. If not, maybe we can at least share some bagels and lox while singing carols on Christmas.